CU News

Chulalongkorn University to Seek New Ways of Reducing Health Risk of the Chulalongkorn Community and Moving towards Being a National Health-Promoting University


“Wellness sustainability” is one of the 3 important strategies of Chulalongkorn University to becoming a sustainable university, as evidenced by outstanding works in medical and health innovation. The university’s success is recognized in the 2022 ranking of universities with the most SDGs impact by THE Impact Ranking in which Chulalongkorn University ranked first in Thailand for the third consecutive year and reached the Top 16 in the world. In addition, Chulalongkorn University was awarded a “4-star Healthy University” by the ASEAN University Network – Health Promotion Network (AUN-HPN) on their Healthy University Rating System (HURS), making Chulalongkorn University only one out of three universities in Thailand to achieve such rating and the highest rated Thai university. Furthermore, in 2023, Chulalongkorn University was chosen to chair the Thai University Network for Health Promotion Network International Conference (TUN-HPN).

Prof. Dr. Narin Hiransuthikul, MD, Vice President of Chulalongkorn
Prof. Dr. Narin Hiransuthikul, MD, Vice President of Chulalongkorn

Prof. Dr. Narin Hiransuthikul, MD, Vice President for Strategic Monitoring and Assessment, Planning, Budgeting, and Well-being, Chair of the Thai University Network for Health Promotion Network (TUN-HPN), revealed that Chulalongkorn University recognizes the importance of physical health of the Chula community as defined by the HURS health promoting guidelines. These guidelines provide indexes in 3 aspects, namely

  1. clear health promotion policies shown through a safe environment that contributes to becoming a Green University, as well as budget and activities designated for promoting wellness;
  2. Zero Tolerance policy towards misbehavior regarding wellness on campus, e.g., smoking, alcohol consumption, drug abuse, violence, and accidents; and
  3. direct health policies that currently emphasize promoting physical health, mental health, and self-awareness, as well as access to knowledge and methods of health promotion, without focusing on any particular disease, but rather taking a holistic approach.

“We can’t promote health by focusing on one particular disease, but we need to see the bigger picture.”

“In this household named “Chula,” the university needs to look after the Chula community so they can become healthier,” said Prof. Dr. Narin Hiransuthikul, MD. The health check-up results of Chulalongkorn’s personnel show a problem of obesity and non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Considering the appropriate BMI, almost 70% of the 5,000 Chulalongkorn’s employees are overweight by 3,000 kilograms or 5.2 kilograms per person, and 10% are at risk of obesity. Apart from this concerning fact, there are higher rates of high blood pressure, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes, compared to the previous years.

The major causes of these diseases stem from the employees’ work behaviors, such as sitting in the same position for a long time and not moving around enough, or what is called sedentary behavior.” Sedentary behavior is the start of obesity and can lead to office syndrome,which affects around 30% of all personnel. Symptoms include neck pain, numb fingers, trigger fingers, and shoulder and neck pain, which could then affect the eyes. If left untreated, these symptoms can contribute to mental conditions, stress, chronic headache, and poor sleep quality. Forty to fifty percent of the Chulalongkorn community suffers from sleep disorders.

“People tend to forget that the real cause of the problems comes from our work habits. One policy that Chulalongkorn aims to implement more seriously is to give importance to work-life balance, Prof. Dr. Narin Hiransuthikul, MD, said.

He also added that the solution to the wellness problems of Chulalongkorn’s personnel is not only education but other measures must be implemented as well. For example, to adopt health-promoting nutritional practices, the Physical Resources Management Division has offered support in improving the canteens on campus, with cooperation from the food stalls in the canteens, to provide tasty and nutritious foods. Space is also provided to encourage exercise. The university is inviting different divisions to pool their expertise to help tackle this issue, e.g., the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Allied Health Sciences regarding food, the Faculty of Sports Science and CU Sports Complex regarding exercise, the Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Allied Health Sciences regarding disease prevention, treatment, and physical therapy. The Office of Human Resource Management will provide additional information to promote better wellness for the Chulalongkorn community. The aim is to lower the weight of Chulalongkorn University’s personnel. This project will become successful if every division puts in its efforts to create continuous activities to promote wellness.

Apart from physical wellness, mental wellness, especially in the case of students, is also a big problem. Records of students’ consultation with the Chula Student Wellness and the Center for Psychological Wellness, Faculty of Psychology, Chulalongkorn University, show that mental health issues have been increasing. Thus, activities to promote mental health, prevent mental illness, and treat mental issues must be organized for students. Some students may not have access to the university’s services or may choose to solve their problems with friends in the faculty; therefore, the university must coordinate with faculties and divisions to reach more students and devise more focused prevention plans and solutions.

Prof. Dr. Narin Hiransuthikul, MD, mentioned Chulalongkorn’s plan to use big data in caring for the Chulalongkorn community’s health and to develop Chulalongkorn University towards being a model for other universities in Thailand. If every university has a comprehensive database of health information, especially information on mental health as it is sensitive and still lacks in-depth data in many aspects, treating health problems in Thailand will become more on point.

An important goal of wellness promotion to achieve sustainable health maintenance at Chulalongkorn University is to “create awareness.” As individual awareness is not enough to create good community health, the university sees the importance of having clear health-promoting policies. Chulalongkorn University is in the process of discussing a policy draft that emphasizes the community’s wellness. In addition, an environment that can boost wellness must be provided, including exercise space, and activities and facilities that encourage health maintenance. As for the development towards being a Green University, the Office of the Physical Resources Management Division is improving the landscape to be pleasant, improving air circulation, and tackling the PM 2.5 problem on campus. This also includes garbage sorting operated by Chula Zero Waste and canteen improvement to provide safe and healthy food. Activities are organized to allow every faculty and division to learn about skills in health promotion and behaviors that should be avoided for the sustainable wellness of the Chulalongkorn community. Chulalongkorn Health Center is adjusting its role to fit the prevention policy by shifting more towards health promotion than treatment.

“Prevention is better than treatment. Don’t wait until you get sick to see a doctor as it might be too late. Good health starts with us. We should seek more knowledge because nowadays there are many sources of health information. The Chulalongkorn community can find this information at the Chula’s health-promoting services, while the university will provide the environment, locations, and activities to promote better health. Please stay tuned for more health activities that will take place at the university this year,” Prof. Dr. Narin Hiransuthikul, MD, concluded.

 “Prevention is better than treatment. Good health starts with us. The university will provide the environment, locations, and activities to promote better health.”

Chula produces able graduates who become quality citizens for society.

Prof. Bundhit Eua-arporn President of Chulalongkorn University

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